USC squeaked into the USA Today Coaches' preseason poll that was released on Thursday, coming in at No. 24.
This is a slap to the face of USC's football program. The Trojans are ranked below Northwestern, TCU and Boise State. Louisville is ranked No. 9. That may be due to the Cardinals' soft schedule. Louisville should finish the season at 12-0.
Boise State is ranked No. 19. The Broncos return just nine starters. The coaches' rankings imply that nine Boise State starters are better than 15 Trojan starters. Or they think Boise State will finish with a better record because of its soft schedule. Either way, USC should not be ranked below Boise State in preseason polls.
The Trojans' No. 24 ranking reflects a lack of confidence in them by the coaches. There are questions about USC, from the identity of its quarterback to the quality of its defense and Lane Kiffin's ability to call plays. In addition, USC plays at No. 11 Notre Dame and drew No. 4 Stanford from the Pac-12 North.
This poll may inspire the Trojans.
Nothing gets a team fired up more than being disrespected. Despite playing a no-tackle spring game in April, USC looked fierce and focused. The offense was clicking. The defensive front seven looked nasty, just like in the good old days under head coach Pete Carroll.
Yes, the cornerbacks need to tighten up their separation. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will fix that. While the starting quarterback has not been named, Max Browne, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek all showed strong skills and leadership abilities. USC should be fine at quarterback.
USC finished the 2012 season unranked after being named the preseason No. 1 team. The perception of the team was that it was a failure. In reality, the media failed—they were the ones who put USC in the top spot.
Rarely does a team start out as the preseason favorite and win the BCS championship. USC did it in 2004, although that was vacated. Florida State did it in the 1999 season.
Preseason rankings do not mean much, especially polls with coaches doing the rankings. They do not study or watch teams other than their own or upcoming opponents. Some of them may not have personally filled out their ballots. More from Yahoo!Sports' Dan Wetzel:
Coaches readily admit they watch terribly little college football—other than scouting footage of their upcoming opponent. Many don't even fill out their weekly ballot, a task left to secretaries or sports information directors.
"I don't know why we vote," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "I guess we vote because college football is still without a playoff system. I really believe most coaches do not know a whole lot about the other teams."
USC fans can take heart. This poll means nothing. Notre Dame entered the 2012 season unranked and eventually went on to play in the BCS Championship Game, where it lost to Alabama.
If USC runs the table, it could catch an undefeated Alabama or Ohio State, ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the coaches' poll. USC's schedule has been rated with a strength factor of 35 by Phil Steele. Alabama's is 40 and Ohio State's is 67. If those ratings stay the same throughout the season, the computers may propel USC ahead of both teams.
USC starts its fall camp on Saturday. Expect to see fire in the players' bellies.
USC should prove the pollsters were wrong.
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